2019 Day 140 – Hong Kong, first impressions

It take a while, to orient ourselves, first thing come morning – Himself booked our accommodation months ago and looks at me blankly when I ask him where we are. It’s not until we plug a few destinations into Google that we work it out. We’re staying just in Jordan, near Kowloon park, a relatively short walk to Victoria Harbour. The view’s pretty good!

Hong Kong beckons from on high, calling for us to shake off travel stupor, to come out and explore. Outside, it’s immediately overwhelming. Having come from the peace of countryside, it takes a while to recalibrate to the pace of a big city. It’s hot and humid, the air quite a solid thing around us.

Our plan is to cross the harbour and head for the peak, said offering unparalleled views over the city. Along the way we encounter dancing lions,

the green oasis of Kowloon Park

and stop for lunch, of course. What would a day out with Himself be, without lunch? Spicy greens,

meltingly tender pork ribs

and beancurd

are an excellent introduction to Hong Kong cuisine.

On the water, Victoria Harbour is teaming with industry.

Every manner of water craft zooms by, from junks and ferries to industrial cranes pulled by tugs. Once on the water though, it’s clear that our ascent to the peak should be put off for a sunnier day – a mist (smog? pollution?) hangs in the air, rendering visibility poor.

We become lost for a while in the enormous IFC Mall. If this is a guide, Hong Kong truly loves to shop, and loves to shop designer.

There’s a dizzying array of goods on offer. We’re happier outside though, walking the harbour

where we see enormous black kites on the wing, a migratory population of around 600, escaping the Siberian winter. With a wingspan of around 150 cm, they’re a magnificent sight when they swoop low.

Back across the Harbour, we walk the Avenue of Stars, featuring ancient trees, covered in strangler vines and hand prints from Chinese film stars.

Paper cranes line the boardwalk, placed recently in peaceful protest against the government.

It’s rather lovely here, with views of Central across the harbour and concerts at play.

The junks have pulled in too, in between tours. I think an evening cruise has to go on “the list”.

Come late afternoon, the cocktail hour calls. We make our way to the Sheraton, through another extraordinary shopping complex.

It leads to an underground network of paths – Hong Kong had hidden delights it seems. Unlike New York, immortalised in celluloid, achingly familiar at every turn, in Hong Kong, you have to work to find its secrets.

Now, those of you who know me, or perhaps have just been reading for a while, will know of my love of the country. Sweeping vistas, spectacular greenery, creatures a plenty. It’s quite true I’d be perfectly happy skipping through fields and forests a la Snow White, only bunnies, squirrels and deer for friends. It’s in the company of virtually any creature I’m the happiest. But, I do have my city weaknesses. Good coffee. The opportunity to wear a little black dress and a stunning pair of heels. Cocktail bars. But all of these fall away up against the big one: city lights.

And it’s here that Hong Kong truly out does itself. Sipping a cosmopolitan in the Sheraton cocktail lounge as night falls and the lights blink on, one by one, Hong Kong turns from soaring metropolis to a 21st century fairyland.

Oh! It’s this I’ve been waiting for, the city lights. They spark through my veins, fire my imagination, bring me completely to life. A creature of the night, I’ve always been utterly mesmerised by them. Left to my own devices in the great cities of the world, I’d live at night by choice. Ironic that I married a creature of the day, no?

Later, dinner’s a fiery treat, Szechuan pork with a side of black fungus.

Later yet, on our roof top bar, the lights mesmerise me again. Just look at that view!

Rain eventually drives us inside where we see, on breaking news, the first evidence of violent protest. We saw peaceful evidence of it, from the Sheraton.

As night falls protests have broke out across the city, blocking roads and causing train stations to close. Businesses with links to mainland China have been hit the hardest – windows have been broken, sprinklers set off and stock damaged. The occasional fire has been lit, but contained outside, in bins and the like. There’s an interesting bit of footage that shows a restaurant owner confronting protesters, telling them “there are old people inside”, upon which they leave.

Elsewhere, people are not as lucky – a policeman is injured and tear gas is sprayed. It’s hard to know where this will end, but I suspect it’s not likely to be good. Businesses have been severely affected, tourism has plummeted. Thinking back on the day, I recall passing only a handful of non Asian faces. In a city this size, with the volume of tourism that Hong Kong usually attracts, that’s pretty extraordinary.